The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have touched down in Northern Ireland for a previously unannounced two-day visit.
The couple arrived in Belfast this lunchtime, beginning their itinerary at Windsor Park football stadium where they heard about outreach campaigns including Ahead of the Game and Shooting Stars, run by the Irish Football Association.
Ahead of the Game works to “support clubs and volunteers when dealing with mental health issues with a focus on challenging the stigma and preventative measures,” while Shooting Stars encourages girls between the ages of four and seven to play football.
William and Kate joined in a pickup game of football during their visit to the stadium before meeting the legendary goalkeeper, Pat Jennings, who played a record breaking 119 games for Northern Ireland during his career.
William and Kate will undertake engagements in Belfast, Balleymena and County Fermanagh, all of which will largely focus on the young people of Northern Ireland. Today’s events have a particular emphasis on positive impact of outdoor activities and sport on childhood development as well as a focus on improving mental and physical health across all sections of the community.
After their visit at the football stadium, William and Kate head to County Fermanagh to visit the work of the charity Extern in the Roscor Youth Village. Young people who benefit from Extern are often advised to attend by social works or the Department of Justice.
According to the media release on the Royal Family’s website, “The site provides a safe space to help and support these young people, with particular emphasis on outdoor activities and developing independent living skills.”
Extern’s website indicates that they abide by two core beliefs: never walking away and reaching out to help before someone has to reach out themselves.
The last engagement today for William and Kate will take place back in Belfast where they will attend a party at the Empire Music Hall in celebration of many young people from across Northern Ireland. Music will be provided by LARKS, an “electro indie pop” band formed by Fiona O’Kane.
Guests will include representatives from the arts, sports, and business sectors, as well as Dame Mary Peters. Mary Peters, an Olympic gold medallist, was appointed a Lady Companion of the Most Noble Order of the Garter earlier today.
William and Kate were last in Northern Ireland in June 2016 to attend a garden party at Hillsborough Castle.